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Lost money to scammers via Western Union? How to claim your refund

Around $586 million provided to reimburse fraud victims

Lost money to scammers via Western Union? How to claim your refund

Victims duped into paying fraudsters via money transfer service Western Union can now claim a refund, thanks to a major US settlement.

After the Colorado-based firm admitted ‘anti money-laundering and consumer fraud violations’, it relinquished a victim refund pot worth $586 million (£436m) to the US government.

If you’ve paid a scammer using Western Union in the last 14 years, you may have the opportunity to get your money back. Which? explains who is eligible for a refund and how you can claim.

Can you claim a Western Union refund?

Victims from all over the world will be eligible to apply for a share of the refund pot, provided they sent a money transfer through Western Union between 1 January 2004 and 19 January 2017 to a fraudster.

The US Department of Justice has set up a website where victims can file a claim online or by post. It’s proactively posted claim forms to over 500,000 US victims – but eligible UK individuals can still apply by requesting a claim ID and PIN.

The claims deadline is 12 February 2018.

With so many potential claimants, it’s possible you may not get all your money back – but its certainly worth registering if you were left out of pocket.

Money transfer scams

In recent years Western Union has become notorious as a wire service used by scammers and con-artists to receive money from unsuspecting individuals.

Vast numbers of people have been tricked into paying someone other than the person they intended to pay, or forking out for goods or services which never materialised.

Commonly victims receive an email claiming to be from a family member in financial distress, or a foreign prince who urgently needs to transfer money out of Nigeria. The victim is asked to send funds via a wire service such as Western Union.

But this type of fraud also happens with transfer between bank accounts. Which? is campaigning for tough action to safeguard victims of bank transfer scams – and the UK government is now considering the creation of a reimbursement scheme.

Scam avoidance and survival

Follow these key rules whenever you receive a call, email, letter or text asking you to part with money, personal or banking details:

  • Contacted out of the blue? If you’re contacted by a company or individual, don’t assume it’s genuine – make sure you do all you can to verify their identity.
  • Pressured to respond quickly? Never proceed unless you are absolutely certain your money will be safe. Once you transfer, it may be too late. Scammers will often try to hurry your decision making, always take a breath and think things through.
  • Spelling or grammatical mistakes? Legitimate organisations with a genuine reason for contacting you are unlikely to struggle with the English language.

For more tips, see our guide on How to Spot a Scam. If you do fall prey to a scam, contact your bank or money transfer service immediately and report it to Action Fraud.

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